POOR Scots will languish in cold homes for another 25 years unless ministers step up efforts to end fuel poverty, the Scottish Greens claim.
Figures published earlier this month show 748,000 households struggle to power their homes. This marks an improvement on the previous year, when 845,000 households had difficulty with heating and lighting.
However, the figure is still higher than in 1996, when fuel poverty was first measured, and the Scottish House Condition Survey found 738,000 households were in this category.
Loading article content
Now the Greens claim it will take a quarter of a century to eradicate the problem unless the Scottish Government changes its policy.
The party, which is pushing for anti-poverty measures in the upcoming Scottish budget, says it will continue to press Finance Secretary Derek Mackay for increased cash for energy-efficient housing.
Green housing spokesman Andy Wightman MSP said: “We know that investing in energy efficient homes is one of the best ways to tackle fuel poverty, but if the government continues at its current rate, it will take 25 years for all vulnerable people and families in Scotland to have decent, warm homes.”
The 25 years claim is based on the number of homes improved by the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPs) in 2014-15.
A total of 30,000 properties were assisted through the Scottish Government initiative during that period. Run on an area-by-area basis, the schemes are designed and delivered by councils and target energy-efficiency measures to those in fuel-poor areas to cut poverty and emissions.
However, poverty charity Turn2Us, which helps those on low incomes access benefits and other support, told The National there was too little awareness of HEEPs and other forms of assistance.
Spokesman Adam Lake said: “Fuel poverty is still a huge problem in Scotland, with nearly half of those that come to the charity for help admitting to having turned off the heating due to the cost.
“HEEPs is one scheme that is offering support, but what those struggling this winter need urgently is greater awareness of the wider help available to them. Over half of those that we spoke to as part of our No Cold Homes campaign said they were unaware that suppliers can offer support to vulnerable customers, and only a third were aware that suppliers sometimes awarded charitable grants to help those struggling the most.
“It is important that schemes that offer support – whether they be from the government or suppliers – are accessible to those that need them and we hope that this research helps to do this.”
Two working groups have made more than 100 recommendations to the Scottish Government since it missed its target for ending fuel poverty in November.
Norman Kerr, director of Energy Action Scotland, wants Holyrood to do more for rural areas and to “develop a new strategy set a new fuel poverty target and increase funding” for this work.
He said: “The progress to date on solving the problem of cold, damp and unaffordable to heat homes must not be lost, but can and should be built upon.”
Age Scotland deputy chief executive Keith Robson said low energy prices had masked the extent of the problem and warned of the impact of any hikes, saying: “We need a radical transformation of Scotland’s housing stock if we want to ensure that older people can live in safe, warm and comfortable homes which they can afford to heat.”
The Greens want warm homes to become a national infrastructure priority, and Wightman called for action to “end the scandal of people being unable to heat their homes in energy-rich Scotland”.
He said: “Those people living in fuel poverty cannot wait 25 years for government help.”
The Scottish Government did not respond to a request for comment.